September 14, 2012

Finding True Love in Peru...Part II

by Guest Blogger Dr. Jackie Imai, a Veterinarian volunteer during the Amazon CARES August 2012 trip.

The Mayor generously invited us out for beers , an invitation we all accepted. As we drank, danced, and interacted with the government people we could see how much effort they were putting into making us feel welcome! Boy did I re-evaluate my first initial impression of this “dreary little town”! We happened to be there for the conclusion of the “MISS REQUENA” contest and what a sight! Everyone was in the main town square, laughing, celebrating and screaming out their favorite contestant! There were Nine! The next day the Mayor and his workers again collected us, and on their day off, spent it taking us to the Amazonian river to swim, a local spot we would never have found on our own, and a hidden secret among locals. Later, although the Mayor was going to spend the rest of the day off with his family, he again, pushed that aside so that we could be taken out on the river to see the sights. We saw black and pink river dolphins and a Manatee! I was rapidly becoming very fond of this little town and in my mind it was transforming into that sleepy little perfect storybook fishing town!
It was back to work the next day and when we opened the gate, to our immense surprise there was that little terrier X female sleeping in the wire kennels! Trust me, stray dogs DO not stick around! We were truly surprised! She darted away and I followed her to the bathroom where she had tucked herself behind the toilet. She looked sluggish and I thought “oh my gosh, the poor thing went through a surgical procedure and hasn’t had any food or water for 2 days!” Being the sucker that I am, I grabbed a chicken sandwich that one of the other vets had purchased to medicate the street dogs with (nobody wanted to put their hands down a stray dogs throat to pill them..) and slowly gave the little dog small pieces. She ate them hungrily and all of a sudden became a new dog! Her tail began to wag and she followed me around begging for more handouts! What a smart little thing! She knew a good thing when she saw it! I noticed a pack of black flies following her (most dogs have mange and secondary “hot spots” open skin infections that attract flies) and sprayed her with more frontline. Although she yelped and jumped since it was stinging her open wounds, she never tried to bite me. Impressed, (she was a street dog after all!) I went to work but told her that if she was still around later I would buy her a chicken sandwich. That was my limit and it never even entered in my mind that I might possibly end up loving her and taking her home.

Throughout the day, I would look around to see if the little dog was still around. She was! She would cool down in the bathroom and take a nap, then wake up and meander around the tables watching us. Every time I took a break or things were slow, somehow, I found myself gravitating towards the chicken sandwich and sneaking her pieces. I found myself saying “Aqui” and noticed she would jump up and run to me. Finally I decided to see if she would let me pick her up. I gave her some coveted beef jerky I had in my pack and reached down warily. She twitched and jumped and then accepted my arms around her! I was really shocked and lifted her into my lap. She promptly lay down and relaxed. At this point, the other volunteers were joking around saying I needed to take her home and rescue her, …. What was I going to name my “new dog”? Of course I said “don’t be ridiculous!” I have too many dogs at home! But as I looked down at myself holding this smelly, yeasty,greasy, scabby, mange covered, mostly hairless dog with flies around her, I thought, UH oh. I’m in trouble. If I can hold this stinky little thing and actually cuddle it, it has already stolen my heart. At that exact moment, when m y heart knew I was going to take her but my head was still arguing against it, that little dog lifted her head and licked my face! And with that 1 stinky kiss, I was a goner. 
Still, as we left the building that afternoon, I had no idea if she would stick around or not. The building has holes through which she could easily slip through and run off and I would not lock her in. The following morning, our last one there, I cautiously entered the building. No sign of her. I whistled. No sign. Then I yelled “Aqui! Aqui!” and out came running this excited little ball of fur straight at me! Her back end was sashaying and her front end was jumping right on me! I lifted her up into my arms and knew she was mine. I promptly left to go find her a basket to carry her home in! First though, a trip to the local pharmacy to buy her antibiotics, prednisone to stop her itching, and baby shampoo to bathe her. We applied revolution, instituted therapy, and within the next 48 hours she was already vastly improved! The flies and fleas went away and her skin turned from harsh, hot infected red to a soft pink.
So that should be the conclusion to a happy ending! But every story, every rescue has its challenges and I was about to discover mine! After finally committing to bring my new little dog home, starting treatments, getting a rabies vaccine, health certificate, etc,. I discovered that the airlines I was on did not fly pets on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. What?! Ridiculous! Even worse, Luis, the head Peruvian vet at AmazonCares advised me that with her skin condition not fully healed, the Peruvian or Mexican officials could detain her, and I, indefinately in the airport. So, with a heavy heart and a complete feeling of abandoning my new responsibility I had no choice but to leave her for the moment.
So how does this end? It is at these times when we struggle most, you see the best of people. The group of people that I came down with, people I had just met less than 2 weeks ago, all tried to think of a solution. Most would have brought her, had they flown a different airline or a different day. Molly, the director, did in fact offer to bring her to me in October when she returns to the Unites States. It is a lot to ask of someone, and yet she offered with no hesitation. Luis and Betjaney, the AmazonCares Peruvian veterinarian and technician, were already administering her medications and bathing her with medicated shampoos for me.

I know that she will be well taken care of in my absence, and that my responsibility has kindly been accepted as theirs. Not one person told me to give up, leave her behind, or that I was crazy in trying to bring a foreign dog home. While I am sad and disappointed that I do not have her with me yet, I know that I will have her soon, and in the meantime she is in the best possible care with truly loving, kind people. So, in the end I did find love in Peru. I have a cherished new dog, a “second family” that is rooting and helping me with her, and a lot of respect for a little town that can barely support it’s people, yet found a way to welcome us, and help treat their stray dogs that are not considered simply nuisances, but rather an integral part of the heart and soul of the town! 

And by the way, I named her "Quita," as a constant reminder of Iquitos. 

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